How Islam Disappeared as a Religious Faith
Dec 27, 2009
Religious historians generally concur that the year 2020 marked the official end of Islam as a religion. While Islam is still practiced in a few remote and impoverished corners of the world, for all intents and purposes it is a relic of the past, like buggy whips and drive-in movie theaters. What is remarkable, considering the violent history of Islam for the past 1,500 years, is that Islam faded into the sunset naturally, without any legal suppression of the political/religious cult or hostilities against the remaining followers. Just as Communism was overwhelmed by undermining events, Islam, when confronted with the realities of the 21st Century, became irrelevant to its former devotees.
Many observers were initially surprised at how rapidly Islam disappeared, considering that the religion claimed to have some 1.4 billion followers at the turn of the century. In retrospect, however, most failed ideologies implode rather precipitously. Nazism peaked in 1938 at the beginning of WW 2 and ended in 1945. Soviet Communism peaked around 1980 during the Leonid Brezhnev period. By 1991, the Soviet Union had been dissolved, and along with it, Communist rule.
Scholars usually cite four driving forces that extinguished the Islamic flame: 1) the collapse of the reed-thin fundamental belief that the Quran was the verbal word of God; 2) the relentless insistence by women on equal rights and equal opportunities which were denied by the religious ideology; 3) the failure of Islamic governments to provide anything better than extractive and exploitive economies, which precipitated a massive brain-drain from the Middle East and crushing poverty for those who remained; and 4) the rising demands of people in Muslim countries for personal liberty and political self-determination through democratic institutions.
The watershed for the Muslim world turning against Islam was actually the last great Islamic struggle orchestrated by a multi-millionaire Saudi radical and his organization called “The Base.” In addition to attacking U.S. and European civilian targets, the organization was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslim civilians in terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and Asia. Instead of rallying the support of fellow Muslims, these heinous acts of destruction galvanized Muslims against the ideology which called for violence and warfare against non-Muslims and Muslims, as well. For all the attention given to “The Base” during the first few years of the 21st Century, their activities accomplished absolutely nothing other than strengthening the resolve of their targeted enemies. Not one single government in the world gave any allegiance or official support to this small band of criminals, who ended up hiding in backwaters of civilization.
The source-book for the Islamic ideology, the Quran, failed to live up to its own claims, just as the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf crumbled under the weight of reality. When a sacred book claims to be the verbal word of the all-knowing Creator, there are very high expectations for accuracy and perfection. It took a long time for Muslims to become fully aware of imperfections of the Quran because 80% of the world’s Muslims did not understand the Arabic text, which was the only authorized version. As more and more Muslims and non-Muslims read the Quran in their native tongues, the errors became obvious: Errors of math (Surah 4:11, 12, and 176), errors of history (Surah 105:5), errors of geography (Surah 12:49), errors of geology (Surahs 16:15 and 78:6-7), and errors of astronomy (Surah 10:5). If the Creator of the universe did not understand these basic sciences, how could that Quranic “god” command enough respect to issue ethical mandates such as beating unruly wives and chopping off the hands of petty thieves? Try as they might, the clerics and Islamic scholars could not convince the Muslim skeptics of the eternal and universal truth of the Quran.
While women constitute half of the world’s Muslims, they were systematically subordinated to men, both legally and socially, by virtue of the Sacred Texts. In earlier centuries their status as second class citizens was not as apparent even to themselves, because women tended to stay at home and raise children. But as women became more educated and more aware of economic and social opportunities, their subordination became a public shame. There was no credible reason in biology or sociology for women to be inferior to men. So the “public sector” became a battle-ground for equal rights and opportunities. The reactionary, male-dominated religious institutions imposed headscarves, niqabs, and burqas on women to stigmatize them in public. Some countries banned women from venturing outside the house without a male escort. Driving automobiles was prohibited for women, and offices were segregated to keep women separated from their professional male counterparts. All of this led to a feminist revolt against the misogynic Sharia Law. Muslim women rejected the draconian legal system in local referendums held one country after another in the West, and eventually the revolt spread to Muslim countries in the Middle East as well.
Fraud of Religious Governance
The initial élan of Islam was its combination of religious faith and governmental power, which proved successful as long as there were enemy subjects to defeat and plunder. The Ottoman Empire grew in power and wealth until the 17th Century when it ran out of conquests. By the 20th Century it was called “the sick man of the Bosporus.” The institution of the Caliphate was dismantled in 1924 by the Turkish ruler Kemal Ataturk, who said, “This is Islam, an absurd theology of an immoral Bedouin, a rotting corpse which poisons our lives.”
But later in 1979, Islamic governance saw a revival of sorts in the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power on the concept of velayat-e faqih, the governance of the divinely guided jurist. The theory was that the religious leaders would be immune from the selfish interests and political corruption of secular leaders, and a result, they would form the best possible governance for the people. Even though Iran was struggling economically and their resources were being dissipated in frivolous international posturing, the populace tolerated the religious rule because they were convinced of its divine wisdom. That noble principle was shattered, however, when the current Iranian Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, defended President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after he brazenly stole the June, 2009, election by stuffing ballot boxes and denying opponents access to the vote-counting process. It was the rejection of that election by the people of Iran that lead to the world-wide rejection of all autocratic governments which had been relying on Islamic backing for their political legitimacy. Most of these former Islamic dictatorships had ruled over the most impoverished countries in the world.
Rejection of 7th Century Intransigence
It is unthinkable in the West that the word “innovation” would be considered a pejorative word, but in the Islamic world it was. Innovation, called bidah, was condemned by the Prophet Muhammad in the Sahih Muslim hadith: “Every innovation is a misguidance and every misguidance goes to Hell fire.” The problem is that all social and economic progress is the result of some sort of innovation. This was obvious even to Muslims who had been held back for centuries due to religious pressures to reject anything new as “un-Islamic.” Saudi Arabia wouldn’t even allow the introduction of the telephone until 1927 when it was demonstrated that an imam could communicate the Quran over a telephone. Only then, some 50 years after it was introduced in the West, did telecommunications become “Islamic” and therefore permissible. Resistance to anything new became unbearable when it came to personal liberties and self-determination. The Islamic governments, allied with the religious clerics, resisted all change – from clothing, to music, to cell phones, to internet access, and even to advanced medical “innovations,” because they were not mentioned in the Sacred Texts. As the populations became aware of the advantages of these new technologies, they rejected the rules preventing them and revolted against their retrogressive governments.
At that point, what evolved was like a slow-motion train wreck. The best and brightest left their native countries for more progressive societies, while the remaining populace chafed under the corruption, incompetence, and backwardness imposed on them. The dictators diverted a larger portion of their country’s resources to beef up the security forces and to clamp down on civil unrest, leaving their subjects more and more impoverished. The religious clerics were also left without government support when their religious pleadings to the people to just accept their fate became ineffective. Eventually, the military and police were strong enough to oust the dictators from their palaces and impose martial law. Fortunately, anarchy was avoided when pundits and journalists argued quite effectively in the media that insurgency would leave the society more damaged than before. People were allowed to form secular political committees and parties to help establish a transparent, representative government responsible and accountable to the voters. Before relinquishing control, the military juntas helped establish constitutions, bills of rights, and governments elected by the citizens. Religion was protected, but it was clearly separated from governance. Resources were then used to expand education, develop local industries, and create new jobs for the citizens. The professional classes returned to their homelands to help the countries develop.
So this was how Islam disappeared. The driving causes which lead to the collapse of Islam had been obvious for decades, but just the same, many were surprised when it finally occurred. Perhaps, on reflection, they should have been surprised that it took so long. What replaced Islam in the minds of the former believers? Many were so sick of 24-7 religiousness crammed down their throats that they rejected all religious persuasions. Others migrated to more humane and loving belief systems. The net result, however, was a world in peace and societies that cared for one another as brothers and sisters sharing the same hopes and aspirations. A peace of submission and subjugation was replaced by a peace of harmony and good-will.